Organisers of the COSAFA senior men's football tournament were yesterday left to search for a new host nation for the 2019 edition after Zimbabwe turned down the rights citing short notice.
Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Kirsty Coventry made the announcement yesterday following a marathon meeting with senior officials from ZIFA and the Sports Commission.
Zimbabwe, who last hosted the tournament in 2009, were provisionally handed the rights to organise this year's edition, pending Government guarantees, when COSAFA secretary-general Sue Destombes toured the country last month and made the announcement.
However, after wide consultations which culminated in a highly charged meeting at Mukwati Building yesterday, the stakeholders felt the deal was not good for Zimbabwe because of limited time.
Coventry said they felt the country was not being given enough time to prepare a classy event as requested by COSAFA.
The tournament is scheduled to start on May 19 and run until June 1.
According to Coventry, the country was still open to hosting the event in the future.
"We have had some deliberations this morning and we needed to come to the media and the country and let you know of some of the outcomes.
"The main discussions were on and around the hosting of the COSAFA tournament and it's been agreed that at this time the deal was not just very good for the country or for ZIFA.
"So, we will not be hosting the COSAFA games this year. But we look forward to having adequate time to be able to host a world class event in the near future.
"We want to make sure that when we do host an event of this magnitude that we are fully prepared, we have good timing. We just don't feel that was given to us this time around.
"So, moving forward, we will continue to work closely with ZIFA in terms of what the next steps are and what the future holds in terms of hosting the event," said Coventry.
There were also sentiments that ZIFA should have consulted all the relevant stakeholders before the announcement by COSAFA.
Zimbabwe last hosted the tournament in 2009 and were hoping to defend their title at home after winning a record sixth silverware last year in South Africa.
The organisers of the regional competition want a bigger event this year which incorporates 16 teams for the first time.
They were confident Zimbabwe had the capacity following the successful hosting of the women's edition two years ago in Bulawayo where 12 teams participated.
There are also spin-offs that are expected from hosting such events but, with the short notice, the country was just not well placed to reap the benefits.
Sources said ZIFA had drawn up a US$2m budget, which Government felt was too high to realise meaningful returns.
The Government insisted they needed enough time to organise the event after they received official communication from COSAFA just a few weeks back.
"Being able to host a big event, we want to make sure that it benefits ZIFA, it benefits Zimbabwe as a country, and it benefits our people.
"As it is right now, the final documents were signed only late January and as far as we are all concerned, that's just not enough time.
"The hosts for next year already know that they are hosts and have an entire year to plan and we feel that it is extremely important that we too as a nation get that time and in that respect be able to plan and deliver an event that we will be proud of," said Coventry.
ZIFA president Felton Kamambo said ZIFA have accepted the arrangement by the Government and are likely to settle for the bid for 2021.
"Our team will participate in the COSAFA tournament wherever it is going to be held,"he said.
"We will try and bid for the future hosting of COSAFA, that is, from maybe 2021 so that we have enough time like what the minister has said to prepare to host these tournaments," said Kamambo.